FX Hits Campaign Trail With New Reality Show

Continuing to push the creative envelope, FX hopes its new reality series American Candidate
will not only generate strong ratings, but also stimulate greater interest in the political process.

FX will produce a minimum of 13 episodes of the one-hour reality series, but entertainment president Kevin Reilly said the network could develop several specials leading up to the show's late spring/early summer 2004 premiere.

American Candidate

will allow viewers to choose among 100 unknown politicians to find a "people's candidate" who could potentially mount a run for the presidency in 2004.

"I think it will definitely stir debate on some level for people wondering if we're making a mockery of the system or not, but that's not the intention at all," Reilly said. "There will be a fun side to the show, but we'll also do it with some integrity, and our hope is that we'll get people caught up in the issues.

"Hopefully, we'll find someone who emerges that is very worthwhile and challenges the status quo somehow."

Jay Roach (director of the Austin Powers
films) and documentary producer R.J. Cutler (The War Room) will produce the series. Cutler and Roach were also slated to produce a similar documentary series on a 2012
candidate for HBO, but the project never got off the ground.

FX will choose from a broad field of applicants — any U.S. citizen 35 or older who can produce 50 petition signatures. Two applicants from each state will be chosen and introduced to the viewing audience in the first few episodes of the series.

The applicants will then be whittled down based on a point system derived from live viewer response and voting.

Serious tome

While American Candidate
figures to have elements of such successful reality skeins as American Idol, Reilly said the show would also have a more serious tone that will reflect the importance of the political process.

"We were trying to figure out how we can give a platform to people who perhaps had some good things to say, but somehow lacked the proper resources to do it," Reilly said. "It will be thought-provoking and worthwhile, and yet ridiculous and silly all at the same time.

"But we're going to have to get out there and frame the issues in a way that is real, dramatic and tangible to the audience, otherwise they won't watch."

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.